In what ways is "Rip van Winkle" a classic tale of wish fulfillment?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the wish fulfillment may be that of the author, Washington Irving, who writes a story for the pleasure of his reader; his is the first story meant to please rather to express some purpose.  Here, for the first time is the introduction of Romanticism and its ideals of taking simple delight in pleasure and being in communion with Nature and its joyous beauty.  Irving describes the majesty of the Airondacks and the splendor of the countryside where Rip, the "anti-Franklin" as critics have termed him, rests his head for twenty years. 

Another Romantic ideal sought by Irving is Individualism, an important aspect this movement.  An unconventional character, Rip van Winkle breaks from his nagging, work-obsessed wife [the Puritan] and heads for the freedom of Nature, the wish-fulfillment of the individualist.  That the aged Rip is given some respect upon his return to the village indicates that communion with Nature does have merits. So, ironically through the indolent Rip van Winkle, Irving expresses his wish for the Romantic ideals. 

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hmm. This sounds like a question asked by a teacher; teachers like to force you to define things like "classic" at the same time you define "fulfillment."

In any case, it is a story of fulfillment because Rip gets what he wants, and more than any of us could hope to do. He wants to loaf, and he gets to--he sleeps the years away. However, when he wakes up, he's old enough that he can "do nothing" without penalty. He's skipped all the hard work. What's more, things got better while he slept, not worse as so many of us fear. America had rebelled and was now free--and he didn't have to help!

As far as what makes it classic, I'd say it is the fact that it has appealed to so many people, which is due in turn to the way the author uses a then-modern method of telling the story (the found manuscript) and an ancient, fable-like setting.


reidalot eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This could easily be a tale of wish fulfillment. We are introduced to Rip Van Winkle who is often pestered by his wife to do something and is described as a ne'er do well. He is just as happy to sit about and relax then do anything else. His farm is the shabbiest in the village and his fields are weeds. Rip meets a man who allows him to drink a draught that lets him sleep for twenty years! Thus, he gets rid of his pestering wife (in times when divorce was impossible); he is allowed to sleep for twenty years (what could be better?); and he misses fighting in the American Revolution (Rip would make a terrible soldier). Indeed, he would have wished for all three conditions if he had spoken those wishes aloud!

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Before Rip goes to sleep, he lives with a wife who is constantly nagging at him for not taking care of his property. His property is run down and Rip would much rather engage in conversation with others, or even help others keep up their farms. After Rip awakens, he finds his wife has died, so there is no more nagging, and he goes to live with his daughter. His daughter takes care of him so Rip has time to spend doing what he wants instead of having all the responsibilities of a wife, a farm or a family. His "dreams" have come true.

revolution | Student

He is known to be a kind and helpful man in front of his neighbors and is always eager to play with other kids or help out in other housework. But to his wife, he would be known as a lazy and useless man, who doesn't care for his children and his wife and doesn't take care of the house and leaves it unattended

When he was drunk in liquor and falls fast asleep, he was transported 20 years later through time, where the American Revolution had just ended and George Washington was the president of America. He can get and do anything he wants without getting punished or doing any hard work as he had already escaped the tedious process, now he can enjoy life to the fullest without having to work so hard. He was in a world of freedom and he can do anything he wishes, without control.

The purpose for calling this book a "classic" is that it was an immediate success, selling copies after copies to encourage the author to publish even more installments. It was critically acclaimed and there was not one dip of criticism from all the critics at the premise of the book